- The Constitutional Court has rejected the last part of a legal complaint put forward by Senator Tomio Okamura.
- Czechs living abroad will vote in their first direct presidential election starting Thursday.
- Constitutional Court chairman Pavel Rychetský has said that preparation for an amnesty declared at the beginning of the year was “amateurish”.
- The government has approved January 16 as a legislatively recognized day commemorating Jan Palach.
- Officials at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute have issued a warning over icy conditions expected throughout the country.
Constitutional Court rejects Okamura complaint
The Constitutional Court has rejected the last part of a legal complaint put forward by disqualified presidential candidate Tomio Okamura including proposed changes to the constitution and legislation related to the country’s first direct presidential election. The decision means no unexpected hurdles will prevent the first round of the election on Friday and Saturday from going ahead. Voters will choose from nine official candidates; if none surpasses the 50 percent threshold in the first round, the two top candidates will face each other in a runoff on January 25 and 26.
Czechs in Brazil and US will cast first ballots
In related news, Czech citizens living abroad will be able to begin voting in the presidential election a day before their compatriots at home. Around 7,200 Czechs have registered to vote outside of the Czech Republic, which they will be able to do at 102 embassies and consulates around the world. The first ballots in this historic election will be cast in Brazil and on the west coast of the US starting at 2pm local time. Voting abroad should finish at the same time as in the Czech Republic, on Saturday at 2pm Central European time.
Court chairman describes amnesty as amateurish
Pavel Rychetský, the chairman of the Constitutional Court, has said in an interview for financial daily Hospodářské noviny that preparations preceding a recent amnesty declared by President Václav Klaus, had been “amateurish”. In his view, the prime minister and justice minister should have investigated ahead of time the potential impact of the move. Judge Rychetský was reacting to a claim that the prime minister’s counter-signature on the amnesty declaration was a mere formality; in a meeting with journalists he stressed that the prime minister had been under no obligation to sign the amnesty if he disagreed with it.
The New Year’s Day amnesty, especially article 2 which potentially halts a number of long-running high profile cases against suspects of corruption and economic crime, has seen a largely negative response from the public. Earlier this week, President Klaus defended his decision, suggesting that widespread discontent with the amnesty had been artificially fuelled by the media.
Case against suspected weapons dealers stopped under amnesty
In related news, the regional court in Liberec has halted a criminal case against two former managers at Agroplast suspected of illegal arms sales. The case against Petr Pernička and Zbyněk Švejnoha had been underway for more than nine years and came under the recent amnesty declared by the president. The prosecution had claimed the defendants sold weapons without a license between the years 1994 and 1999; had they been found guilty each would have faced up to eight years in prison.
Government approves Jan Palach Day
The government has approved a proposal to make 16 January a legislatively recognized day commemorating Jan Palach. A student at Charles University, Jan Palach lit himself on fire in 1969 in protest of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Soviet-led troops. Palach died of his injuries on 19 January. He became one of the best known symbols of protest against the invasion and the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Lawmakers decided not to make Jan Palach Day an official public holiday for financial reasons. Currently 12 public holidays are observed in the Czech Republic.
Supreme Court rules employers laying off staff for reasons of redundancy not obliged to offer different posts
The Supreme Court has ruled that employers are not obliged to offer staff laid off for reasons of redundancy alternative positions within firms, even in cases where similar positions are open. The Supreme Court issued its ruling on Thursday after having studied the Labour Law in detail, in relation to a case in which an employee had been let go earlier for said reasons. The employee, a systems administrator, filed a complaint with the district court in Prague 10 after his position was scrapped, maintaining he should have been offered another job at a time when several within the company were available. Two courts, in Prague 10 and the Prague Municipal Court, originally ruled in his favour, but the Supreme Court struck down the earlier decisions, stressing that the obligation to offer alternative employment ended in 2006. The Supreme Court ruling will apply to all lower-instance court decisions.
Czech Republic sees first methanol-related death in 2013
Poisoned alcohol has claimed the life of a Czech in the region of Olomouc – the first methanol-related death in the Czech Republic in 2013. The news was revealed by the country’s chief hygiene officer Vladimír Valenta. The man was found dead in his home on 9 January – the 39th fatality related to poisoned alcohol since an initial outbreak of poisoning that began in September of last year after thousands of litres of tainted liquor were smuggled onto the market. The police estimated that roughly 5,000 litres of methanol-spiked alcohol remain in private homes. The country’s health minister has repeatedly warned members of the public not to consume spirits of unknown origin.
Meteorologists issue warning over icy conditions
Officials at the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute have issued a warning over icy conditions expected throughout the country in the coming hours. Pedestrians and motorists have been asked to proceed with the caution. The warning went into effect at noon on Thursday and will last until 11 pm local time on Friday evening.
Hockey: Jágr returns to US to start shortened NHL season
Czech hockey star Jaromír Jágr departed the Czech Republic at 8:45 on Thursday morning to return to the United States and the NHL where he is set to play for the Dallas Stars. The 40-year-old forward played until now for his hometown team Kladno, helping turn the club into a force in the Czech league during the NHL lockout. The NHL, which normally begins in the autumn, will see a shortened season of 48 matches. The lockout lasted 113 days before a new collective bargaining agreement was reached between owners and the players’ association, the NHLPA. The exact date for the start of the season has not yet been announced.
Hockey: Třinec faces league-leader Plzeň in Extraliga action
Hockey club Třinec has a chance to reach second spot in the Extraliga if players can clinch a win on Thursday against league leaders Plzeň on Thursday evening. Třinec is currently in third place behind Zlín and 11 points behind the leaders. To earn three points, however, the club will have to beat Plzeň on home ice.
Cloudy conditions with sunny periods and a chance of snow is expected into Friday. Daytime temperatures should drop to just below zero heading into the weekend, to around -1 degree Celsius.